Draft Your Way to Victory

How much time would it take you to decide, if you were to choose which five out of thirty different pieces of candy you would like to eat? If you like candy at all, I’d wager it would take some time. Probably more time than choosing one out of five six times in a row.

You’ve probably already guessed that after my last post on Worker Placement, this time I want to talk a bit about Card Drafting. This means that I will cut right into the middle of the popularity line I set up previously, but I think there are more than a few good reasons to do that. What reasons? Through the Ages, 7 Wonders and Blood Rage, just to name a few.

Although the sheer numbers extracted from Boardgamegeek make Card Drafting only the fifth most popular Eurogame mechanism (with about 500 games using the mechanisms currently in the BGG base), the general popularity of games making this mechanism a part (or indeed the whole) of their core, makes it clear that Card Drafting is a solid base to build your game on.

The heavy gamer's civilization building Card Drafting game.
The heavy gamer’s civilization building Card Drafting game.

To explore this a bit, let’s go back to the candy situation from the first paragraph of this post. In essence, the “choose one out of five, repeat six times” part is exactly what drafting is, or what it would be, if we had no other players involved in the drafting process. Nonetheless, it shows one of the biggest advantages of the drafting system: the ability to simplify our decision process, without diminishing our game experience.

When faced with too many choices, we tend to grind to a halt, and to get moving again, we either quickly develop a system that culls some of the choices (“I hate liquorice, so these five types of candy are out”), or give up and abandon the idea of making a choice, in favour of chance (“Damn, I bought the liquorice candy again”).

The raging gamer's civilization demolishing game of Card Drafting.
The raging gamer’s civilization demolishing Card Draftin game .

Drafting performs a similar process, by randomly dividing the pool of available options into manageable groups, effectively keeping the depth and the scope of our choices, but making it much easier to parse through all available material. And while this may not be the best system for choosing items at a store (“Damn, I need to choose from this group now, and it consists of only liquorice candy!”), it’s a great one to use in the game.

Distilling a huge number of choices into a series of intersections that are much easier to navigate makes the game play faster, allows players to stay engaged all the time, but manages to shed a level of complication without losing richness and complexity. However, more importantly, Card Drafting also easily builds up tension, which keeps players excited, and (as evidenced by Kickstarter successes and sales number) on the lookout for new Drafting games to add to their collections.

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